Case Study

Gary is one of our Befriendees living in a very remote location.  He was referred to us by his GP who was concerned that loneliness and isolation were taking a toll on his health.  At the initial assessment it became clear that the amount of time that Gary was spending alone meant that he had very low self-confidence and felt unsure about going anywhere where he was going to have to socialise, although he knew he was lonely and was craving conversation.

Because Gary was able to travel, Violet, the befriender, met with Gary at his home and then they went out for runs around Orkney doing things like going out for a coffee, going for a drive or going to the movies.  These were things that Gary hadn't been doing at all and his confidence started to grow.

As Gary's confidence grew, Violet and the Befriending Service agreed to suggest Gary attend some social groups available in various locations.  Gary attended three different social coffee morning groups with Violet accompanying him.  Violet also showed him how to access the list of what movies were playing at the cinema and, with her encouragement, he began to access that and go to the movies by himself.

Gary's independence has grown significantly to the point at which it was arguable whether or not he would still be considered isolated.  As the level of independence had grown so significantly, the befriending match was ended.  However the Befriending Service continues to periodically keep in contact with Gary to ensure that he is doing okay and, should his situation change, Gary can be rematched as a suitable Befriender becomes avaialble.

What did Gary's GP have to say?

"The Befriending Service here makes a tremendous difference to the quality of life for our patients.  Social isolation has negative effects on both mental and physical well being. Consultations with people who are almost palpably lonely tend to be long and relatively fruitless.

There is no medicine that can alleviate the pain of not seeing anyone from day to day.  While the patient may feel a transient relief to speak with his GP/nurse/anybody it's fairly dispiriting for a healthcare professional to know they are not dealing with the underlying problem.  Thankfully we are able to refer to the Befriending Service.

In the past year I have watched a patient blossom in the hands of the Befriending Service.  His consultation rates to the surgery have dropped.  Previously they would have been in 1-2 times per month for no real reason; now they are around once every 3-4 months.  His mental health has also markedly improved.  He has a far more positive outlook on life.  He feels like a human being again.

As far as I'm concerned the Befriending Service prevents unnecessary use of nurse and doctor appointments in the GP surgery.  We find that when patients have engaged with their befriender we have fewer consultations with them.  Those that we do have are shorter, more appropriate and far less dispiriting."


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